Wednesday, April 30, 2008

This past Sunday, I participated in the Charles River Watershed Association's 26th 'Run of the Charles'. It is a great way to celebrate the progress being made in cleaning up the Charles. Approximately 1400 participants paddle in their choice of five different races.

I paddled the stretch of river from Riverdale Park in Dedham to Herter Park in Boston. It's a journey of 19 miles through a wide variety of river environments from broad expanses of marsh to narrow sections through old industrial areas. Portages also vary between scenic trails such as Hemlock Gorge, sidewalks of Route 16 in Wellesley, and back alleys between mills in downtown Waltham.

This year's journey started out cloudy and cool and got even cooler as we neared Boston and the east wind blowing in from the ocean. The cool conditions aren't a problem while you're paddling but can become a problem when you reach the end of the race and stop generating heat. The first order of business upon arriving a Herter Park, is getting into some dry clothes.

Images lingering in my memory are the sight of a life sized wooden Indian gazing out from a point of land near Norumbega, a wooden black bear on an island in the same area, looking up at bridges carrying Route 128 and the Mass Pike high above the river, all traffic on Waltham's Moody Street stopped so that I can wheel my kayak across this busy street in the city where I grew up, and two small herons watching me paddle by in Watertown or Newton.

All in all, it is great to see the Charles River get such a special day! Every river should be so lucky.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sudbury River - Egg Rock to Sherman's Bridge

Today being a holiday and with predictions of yet another beautiful spring day, how could one resist some trash paddling. Also, with the 'Run of the Charles' being less than a week away, I could multi-task, and get some training in for that event.

I launched at 8 am and headed upstream on the Sudbury River, deliberately heading away from all the festivities in the vicinity of the North Bridge. It was cloudy and a little cool, but you see that the sun was already trying to break through.

In the area of Heaths Bridge or Sudbury Road, I quickly rounded up 16 pieces of trash. About 10 of these were empty beer cans that were full of water and resting on the river bottom near shore. The air was full of birdsong and the male red-winged blackbirds were displaying their red wings for any interested females.

Crossing Fairhaven Bay, the sun made its first prolonged appearance of the day and fittingly, I saw my first osprey of the season.

The newly built Lees Bridge at Rt. 117 continues to emerge as the temporary bridge is dismantled. I noticed a second, smaller, portal for the first time today. Paddled past the beaver lodge near Macone's and didn't see any sign of my submarine swimming beaver friend. He must have been sleeping in.

Arriving at Sherman's Bridge, I stowed 21 pieces of trash in my ship's hold and after removing my jacket began the trip downriver. Rounding the tight curves upriver from Weir Hill, I espied two recently built beaver lodges in fairly close proximity to one another. Both are on the east side of the river and look well built.

I encountered only a few pieces of trash between my turnaround point and Heaths Bridge. Just upstream of this bridge, another 12 pieces of trash were added to my deck bungees.

Reaching my takeout location, a little after noontime, my count for the day was 33 pieces of trash. 16 were recycleable. My YTD total now stands at 1004.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Patrolled Assabet - Egg Rock to Blowdown

The Assabet River was fairly busy today, as it should have been, considering the fantastic weather and ideal paddling conditions. Probably, the most paddlers I've seen on this river in a single day.

Heading upriver, one thing noticed is that Dodge Rock has popped back up above the surface. This is the first I've seen of it in about 1 1/2 months. It should serve as a reminder that the nice water levels we have now, won't be around too much longer.

Didn't see too much trash until after passing under Route 2. Picked up a few bottles, etc. in West Concord. Paddling under the Pine Street bridge is still possible. Staff guage was around 2.7.

More bottles near Thoreau School. Current is still running strong up to the large blowdown near Westvale. At this point, it's either portage or turn around. Turn around is what I did and began making the easy paddle back to Egg Rock. At that spot, a young fellow in a canoe with his father yelled out "Hey Mister, How come you got all that junk on your boat?" I replied something to the effect of saving for a MacDonalds 'Happy Meal'. He seemed inspired to then get some junk of his own. Reached my take out location with 20 pieces of trash for the day, bringing my YTD total to 971. Could there have been any better place to be today? Not for me!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Upper Concord River Yields Trash Bonus

This afternoon provided splendiferous conditions for trash paddling! Not a cloud in the sky. After launching and reaching Egg Rock, I drifted down the upper Concord River. The area just upstream of the Old North Bridge provided 23 pieces of trash. By the time I reached the Great Meadows boat landing, I had 36 pieces, and these were stored below deck. Heading around the oxbow between Great Meadows Landing and Sawmill Brook, a mink swam across my path into a backwater. I decided to follow and was soon finding more bottles etc. I had forgotton about the mink and was heading back out to the main channel when I saw a head pop out from behind a tree trunk. It was the mink I had seen earlier. He would pop out from one side of the tree, then pop out from the other. A very curious little fellow.

Shortly, I reached the next bend in the oxbow and began my trip back upriver. Just a little ways downstream of the Great Meadows Landing, on river right, I espied a shiny bottle in the sunlight. Paddling into this area where the river was trying to take a shortcut, I recoved the bottle I saw and a few others. Sitting in amongst the trees, a white trash bag caught my eye. It was wedged in some branches and filled with 24 empty Budweiser beer cans. A trash paddler's dream come true!

Other wildlife observed today were green-winged teals, wood ducks, mallards, Canada geese, red-winged blackbirds, great blue herons, and a muskrat.

Now, with my foredeck covered to the hilt with trash, I headed to my takeout with the feeling of satisfaction that a successful hunter might possess. My count was 82 pieces of trash of which 62 were recyleable cans and bottles. My YTD total is 951.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Lower Sudbury River to Pantry Brook Patrol

This afternoon's very pleasant weather allowed for an enjoyable paddle to the Pantry Brook empoundment. For a change, trash was scarce on the river today. Temperatures warmed into the 50's and it may actually have been around 60 degrees at the end of my paddle. Man, it felt nice!

Working my way upriver was a pleasant chore. Fairhaven Bay had one lone fisherman. Downstream of Lees Bridge, a red-tailed hawk flew across my path and swooped into a nearby oak where another hawk was perched. Red-winged blackbirds were plentiful. Nearing Pantry Brook, I passed the beaver lodge near Macone's place. As expected, the beaver was soon swimming 'submarine' style around the lodge and then gave a tail slap as a sign of his concern with my presence.

Reaching the mouth of Pantry Brook, I was surprised that access to the empoundment was still possible. The staff guage indicated a water level of 4.75. Once in the empoundment, several painted turtles were observed sunning themselves on anything they could climb out of the water onto. Canada geese were honking up a storm, so I decided to stay near the dam rather than go upstream. This is a nice spot for a snack break. It almost turned into a nice spot for a nap.

Heading back downriver, I had the breeze at my back and that combined with the current made for a very easy and fast trip. At Lees Bridge, I stopped to snap a photo of the newly built bridge. Now, that the temporary span has been removed from the river channel in front of the bridge, one can appreciate what a nice job they did.

A little ways down from Martha's Point, I encountered another kayaker, Brooke, who was paddling her Necky Eliza. We chatted and paddled about a half mile together. She knew the details about the 8 point buck that died in this area of the river last November. It apparently had been shot by a hunter and ran into the river where it died before making it across. I had come across its dead body last fall and thought it died trying to climb out of the river. The buck looked magnificant even in death, though a few days later, he lost much of his dignity when someone cut off his antlers. His body may still be there, but submerged under the higher water levels.

Arriving at my takeout, I had only collected 14 pieces of trash, bringing my YTD total to 869.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Patrol of the Upper Concord River

Today's cool, cloudy, and drizzly conditions meant paddling in a wetsuit and pogies again. This has been a banner year for my Filson "Elmer Fud" hat. If there is a warmer hat than this, I've yet to find it. Once I had launched out onto the river at 11 am, it wasn't that bad and as often as not when it is dreary out, one tends to see more wildlife.

I decided to give the upper Concord River another patrol since there will be so much activity around the North Bridge over the next 2 weeks. Between Lowell Road and the North Bridge, on river right, I came across a large green trash bag wedged into a strainer. Pulled it out and paddled it to shore where I found it contained 40 pieces of trash that probably came from fishing activity around the Calf pasture area. The bag may actually have been in one of the trash barrels there. At any rate, it got me off to a great start.

Reaching the North Bridge area, I found another dozen or so pieces of trash and noticed quite a few people visiting the area, despite the weather.

Found another dozen pieces just below Flints Bridge. By the time I reached the Landing at Great Meadows, my deck was loaded, so I landed and began organizing trash versus recycleables. Relaunching into the river, I had 53 pieces of trash below deck, 36 pieces in my drybag, and 3 under the deck bungees. Paddled down to my favorite cabin below Sawmill Brook and sat in boat near the empoundment while I enjoyed some hot cocoa and a power bar.

Heading back upriver, I encountered eastern bluebirds and a hairy woodpecker on river right near Hutchin's farm. A little ways below the North Bridge, I enjoyed watching the acrobatics of many tree swallows. I suspect they were catching/eating the same flying nymphs that kept landing on my hat.

Arriving at my takeout, I ended up with 107 pieces of trash. 69 were recycleables . My YTD total now stands at 855. Not too shabby for a gloomy Sunday in early spring!

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Face that Launched a Thousand Trash Paddlers?

I wonder just how many people this old public service announcement reached. I don't think anything since has come close. Check it out:

I know that the actor was not a real Native American. However, in my estimation, he adequately portrayed their sense of quiet dignity.

The power of this public service announcement helped to bring about the concept of reducing roadside litter by placing a deposit on plastic bottles and aluminum cans. I find it hard to believe that the deposit remains at 5 cents so many years later. It should have increased over time. Of course, water and juice bottles should also have a deposit. I wonder how long those industries can keep preventing it.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Lower Assabet, Egg Rock to Concord Junction

On Thursday afternoon, with temperatures in the 50s and the wind finally dropping off a bit, I trash patrolled the lower Assabet River from Egg Rock to Route 62 in West Concord and back. There was not a cloud in the sky when I launched my kayak at 1 pm and began slowly working my way upstream against the current and breeze. Each trash target located and recovered provided a little respite from the river's steady flow.

By the time I reached Spencer Brook, my drybag was full and the foredeck was decorated with a colorful array of plastic and glass bottles. A little ways upstream of the Route 2 bridge, I paddled into a backwater, where after going ashore, I placed 36 pieces of trash below deck. That done, I planted my small stool and enjoyed a short break in this peaceful little cove.

After relaunching, I covered the last stretch to my turnaround point at Route 62 and began the trip downriver with 40 pieces of trash. Now, with the sky clouding up, the wind and current at my back, my boat and I were flying downstream. Put the brakes on three or four times to gather up more trash and arrived at my takeout with a 2nd load on deck. Total count for day was 54 pieces of trash, of which 27 were recleable containers. Oddly, there were 3 lightbulbs today. Two of the three bulbs were Xmas tree type bulbs. YTD total = 748